Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

I miss summer :(

Today is the first day of fall.  I'm blaming that for everything that happened today.  You see, I am a summer child.  I *love* summer.  I was born in the summer.  I love the heat.  I love the sunshine.  I love the long days and the hot nights.  I love everything to do with being in, on or around the water.  My job gets easier, more fun, and I have more time in which to do it.  We get to play XC.  Basically everything about summer is good.  And this summer was amazing.  I had tons of fun showing Athena, who got better every time out, and I had a great group of girls competing and had an awesome time with them.

Of course, the flip side is also true -- I *despise* winter with a passion.   And today was the first day of fall. The bringer of winter.  I should've stayed in bed.

Which I very nearly did.  Hit snooze a few times too many and ended up rolling out of bed at 6:10 -- I meant to leave the house at 6.   Oops.   Then I realized I neglected to fill up the gas the night before.  Detour 1.  And by this point I was so late I decided I needed Timmies too.  Detour 2.

But eventually I made it to the barn, and it turns out I am *very* efficient at show-morning prep.  Mostly based off the fact that I have always hated mornings and therefore sleeping till the very last second has been a great motivator.  So I was, in fact, ready to go less than 10 min after the planned time.  And Athena loaded like a saint!  Best yet.   Hesitated slightly and then just strolled on.  Sweet.

So we were off.  And passed through some random time-warp that got us there in record time.  I had an hour before I had to get on for dressage, so I left Athena with Chelsea (who has, after today, been totally promoted to Supergroom.  She was *awesome*.) and went to get my package and walk xc.  Completely forgetting my passport *sigh*  Can you tell it's been a while?  But they gave it to me anyways with my promise to deliver said passport later.

Head out to XC.  Now the night before a friend had texted me the course, so I was a little concerned.  I texted my coach who returned with the short-hand virtual course walk that made me feel a little better.  And as I started to walk it, I wondered what my concern had been.  Fences one and two were super inviting.  Three would require a bit of a ride, but it was really small -- she could easily trot it if we had to.  So no problem.  4-5 would be a *very* challenging bending line for her; until I realized we could angle 4 slightly and jump them on a straight line which she could do reasonably well.  6 was a random house.  Np.  Then the map showed cross the treeline, turn left, and jump the half-coffin.  So I crossed the tree-line, turned left, and found nothing...  Backtracked and walked straight farther -- found an Intermediate ski jump that ran the other way and figured I was misplaced.   Now at the treeline there were two options to go "straight".   It looked like the one on the right connected back at the bottom of the hill.   So, walking backwards and figuring this was the only option left, I decided to take the connecting path and see if the jump was in there.

Short story - it wasn't.  You can skip a few paragraphs now if you want to know about the *riding* portion of today's activities.   Still with me?  So I pretty quickly ascertained that this was *not* the correct route, but it looked like it'd reconnect back at the top of the hill so I followed it.   It didn't.  So I turned around and went back...   And here things get a little fuzzy...   Somewhere, lost in the woods, I made a very wrong turn. Not sure exactly how, but I was clearly not making it back to the xc course.  And I was turned around enough I didn't even know which way the course WAS.  :(   And pretty soon it was very clear I wasn't even on the property!  By this point I'd turned around so many times it seemed turning back would just get me more lost and I stumbled upon a wider, groomed and signed path.  Clearly for snowmobilers and not likely part of the xc course -- but I had hopes it'd go somewhere civilized so I followed it for a while.  By this point I realize I have less than 20 min till I had planned to get on and absolutely NO idea where I was or how to get out.  Less than fun, let me tell you.  And I'm on foot.  And I didn't have my cell phone with me.  And Sasha had no brilliant ideas, but thought this was a really great game :)   So I followed the nicely signed big path for a while and could see a clearing.  Doing most of this at a jog now in an effort to save time. My little brain equated clearing with "xc field" -- or at very least "open field" which'd mean farm of some sort and therefore people.   Yeah.  First day of fall, remember?  The open field was a hydro line path.  Oh dear.   I definitely hadn't crossed a hydro line before so now I knew for a fact I was going the wrong way -- BUT had no idea how to get back where I started, so figured I'd continue.  And then my nice big path disappeared.  Seriously.  But there was a little path that went straight up the hill to a place that looked like it had a good view.   Ok, climb hill and look around.   Straight down the hill a little ways away, I could see a silo.  No idea how far it *actually* would be from there -- distance is deceptive at that point.  But I'd much rather be lost on a road with buildings and, conceivably people, then in the woods wandering aimlessly.

So there's a scrawny little path leading straight down the hill (and these are not small hills!) which Sasha and I mostly slid down...  And a road!  Woohoo!   A dead-end road -- but I had hopes it would lead to another one.  Preferably the one Glen Oro is on!  Oh - and I have 10 mins till I'm supposed to be on my horse.   I see a driveway - sweet!  Nope, it's a construction pit.  Oh dear.  Keep walking and in the distance there's a nicely manicured lawn.  Look and house appears to be absolutely deserted.  But look closer and there's a guy chopping wood by a barn at the back.  I think that's the most happy I've been to see anybody in a very long time.  So I interrupted his work as politely as I could and explained the situation and how lost I was and asked if he could point me in the right direction.  As soon as I mentioned the horse show it was very clear he knew exactly where I was supposed to be, but... "that's the next concession over.  If you give me 10 mins to finish this, I can run you over."

Now there's a life choice for you.  How many times do you get told growing up never to get in a car with a stranger?  But, otoh, I approached him.  And I had *no* idea where I was.  So really, if he were a bad guy - I'd already walked right into his home base.  And if not, then he could really help.  hahaha so I accepted the ride with great thanks.   As we pulled out the driveway, we met his wife (or that's the impression I got anyways) pulling in so he stopped to tell her where we were going, and she offered to take me instead which I thought was super cool of her, but Sasha was with me and def wouldn't've fit in her little car...  But OMG we were SO far away.  That road connected to Horseshoe Valley Rd, which *then* connected to the street GO is on.  It would've taken me a solid hour, probably longer, to walk that.  As it is -- I was pushing it really tight for dressage by this point, but I still thought I might make it.  Profuse thanks to awesome farmer dude and book it back to the trailer where supergroom Chelsea, completely unaware of my drama but very aware of the time, already had Athena tacked up for me.  Just had to get dressed and go.  Trotted our way to warm-up and got tack check and then exhaled.  hahaha we made it.  And even had time to warm up.  And Athena was being *amazing*.

Went in the ring and she continued to be amazing.  Wow.  That test was significantly harder than what she's done this year, although I admit I schooled both the pieces AND the full test at home all week, so she did have some idea what was going on.   She was brilliant.  I wasn't convinced she'd be competitive for training level, but compared to every test she's ever done, this was was awesome.  So I was pretty excited about that.
In dressage

So.  Then it was time to walk XC.  This time I brought a friend!  The first 6 fences seemed still just as nice as the first time around.  And we went to the forest and *still* couldn't find it.  And this time I was getting *really* frustrated about it.  And again, we only had about an hour so not a ton of time to fuss around being lost.  Got smarter this time though - knowing all the *wrong* routes and also knowing where fence 9 was, we went there and worked backwards.  8 I also knew as they were the steps down.  And then I wondered if 7 wasn't really in the woods at all -- pt 7 was in the field beside the woods.  So figured I'd walk back there and see.  And as I did, I discovered it!  Yes in the woods, but not a straight line through the way the map showed...  A swerve and basically a little loop next to the treeline.  So this one was a half-coffin.  Nice little log, one stride downhill to the ditch.  The ditch was def home to at least a few horse-eating monsters -- of the deep and not particularly inviting type -- but my plan was to trot the log so A'd have time to process and I thought we'd be ok.  She looks at ditches, but is pretty sainted about them.  Then back to 8 - two steps down.  She hasn't done that before but we've done a ton of banks so I wasn't terribly concerned about it.  My plan was a super-slow approach, step down off the first and continue.  9 was just a random fence.  10 was a bank into water, but with the water shortage you could actually land on sand for one stride.  Sweet.  11 a small skinny after the water.  12 was a corner - which worried me on the map as GO used to have a *huge* maxed T corner (remember it with Zel) - but this was a tiny and inviting one.  The tree next to it would be more of a challenge :)  Sweet.  Then we have more water, but again can land on solid ground.  The bank up was reasonably substantial, so I gave it a fair amount of respect, and one stride to some logs.  Then a nice run and a little pile of logs in the tree-line.  Bending line to a substantial trakhener.  I figured it'd be ok though (kinda like the one she did at Will O Wind -- the ditch was more dug out, but not as wide) - the only issue really was that the footing was boggy right before it and A *really* dislikes soft footing.  Then a coffin that was about as friendly as coffin's get.  Main issue there is by this point she'd be tired...  And then just one little log fence to the finish.

So at this point I was pretty excited -- I really like technical courses and as a schooling upgrade it'd be prefect because it had some of everything but nothing too massive or scary.  Woohoo!  Went to check stadium quickly and it was open to walk, so did that.  It was maxed.  Seriously maxed.  And any fence that would be a "gimmie" in a normal course had some sort of optical illusion to it for all sorts of fun and games.  And the footing was slick.  Striding was text-book perfect and nothing complicated in the turns.  It was just size and appearance.

At this point I would've liked to have been warming up already, so booked it back to the pony -- who Chelsea already had tacked up (didn't I say she was awesome!) and trotted back to warmup.  She warmed up *beautifully*.  I was thrilled.  Jumping positively and in front of my leg and just feeling good.
Stadium w/u

And then it started to rain.  Is anybody surprised by this?   And we went in the ring.   She was really backed off the first fence which surprised me a little as it was very inviting (or so I thought - I later discovered there were a lot of stops there) but she jumped it well.  Fences 2-3 rode really well (in the right number of strides!) but she was feeling a little hesitant off the ground.  Not looking at things, but just not flowing well.  Fence four -- even watching it on video I'm not exactly sure what happened.  I do know that I got more air time than is legal without a pilot's license.  It looks like she changed her mind and put her front feet down for an extra mini-stride and then took off again straight up.  Got my balance back and 5 rode really well.  I thought she'd look at it as she was *very* backed off a similar fence earlier this year and hasn't seen anything like it since.  But she flew over it -- prob the best fence of the day.  6 though we came in too flat and she got deep and cat-leaped it.  Cleared it -- evidently this height isn't a challenge for her either.  In fact when it went well, she felt WAY better over the bigger fences.  The issue is, when it *didn't* go well...  And I very nearly landed without her on that one.  Again, serious air time -- but this time we didn't land as well.  *sigh*  At least I knew *why* that one was bad.  7 was a triple-bar of decent size that she flew over beautifully.  We weren't as balanced on the turn to 8 as I would've liked, but we managed it.  However, that flowed through in that we missed the turn to 9.  *sigh*  I did manage to get her there and she *started* to take off...  And then her hind legs slid :(   Boo on that.   We demolished the fence - right through it.  Pause to rebuild and then try again.

And she did it the second time.  Serious hesitation though, I could feel she'd had enough of this game.  And the rational side of my brain said "retire."  *sigh*  I have to learn to listen to the rational side of my brain.  It doesn't appear often in competition, but it's almost always right.  Sadly the competitive side of my brain which said "there's only one line left" won out and we approached the last combination.  She propped and spun out and I landed on my feet next to her, still holding the reins.  *sigh*   I don't blame her being scared and unconfident after the way the course was going -- and that line had some tricks to it.  Perfect distances but optical illusions with the poles.  That dirty bastard Hindsight is kicking me for not stopping when the thought entered my brain.  Because really, if any portion of the rider isn't convinced they should keep going, why would the horse?  That's the first round since I was a kid where things got worse as we went.  I'm pretty disappointed in myself for that :(

So I did remount of course and we jumped a few fences in the warm-up area again.  She was still super hesitant and sticky *sigh*  I didn't even try the oxer that she'd been so brave over earlier.   Jumped a few low ones where she felt good and called it a day.   They *did* say we could still go xc (the attrition rate in stadium was rather atrocious so I guess they were letting people school if they wanted to) but I felt that would not be a positive experience and was certainly not about to make the same mistake twice.   The rational brain may not have won out in the three strides I had to make a decision in stadium, but it certainly did in the time between stad and xc!
I wish this weren't fuzzy - she flew over it!
On the plus side -- I was super proud of and impressed by miss Chelsea!  Who took complete care of my pony all day and did an amazing job of it -- as well as doubling as puppy sitter and videographer!   And, tbh, it was a great social day.  I got to chat with a bunch of friends I don't see very often and some of the other riders that I know but rarely have time to talk to.  That part was actually a lot of fun.  Was parked next to a friend riding after me in competition -- I miss that part of competing; the last few years I've always been out on my own -- which is awesome, but I hadn't realized how much of  a difference it makes.  On both sides of the cheering on when things are going well and commiseration when things don't go as well as planned.  Not to mention the always fun gallows humour about the course :)  And just having somebody to walk the course with and bounce ideas off of.  Social outtings are always good :)

So now I know our homework for the winter.  Fix what I broke and improve it to the unbreakable point!  No problem :)  For all today was brutal, I was still so proud of my little mare and how very far she's come.  And next year no fall shows.

What do you want in life?


I've never been a big fan of these, but this one caught my attention.  The first time I looked it said: Time, Money, Fun -- pretty accurate I'd say :)

The second time I looked it said: Love, Time, Happiness -- I'm noticing a common trend here...  And with enough of the first I might be able to achieve the second :)

Have to wonder though if the brain really does seek words that are important to it, or if it's just the placement of them on the page.  I know when we were studying UI there was a lot of discussion done about studies that show where the eyes instinctively look first on a screen; same thing could well be at work here too.  But always fun to read something into nothing right?

Had a fairly entertaining and reasonably effective lesson today.  Some reasonable flat work followed by grown-up sized jumps.  Which Athena flew over like a pro-star.  Not even close to the highest I've jumped her, but arguably the *biggest* given the spread.  And jumping with text-book style.  If we can keep that together for Sat, we'll have a lot of fun!

Be careful what you study...

So somebody sent me this photo:


Which was just so horrible I had to post it.

Then it reminded me of the saying I had up on the wall next to my machine in uni:

Knowledge is power.
Power corrupts.
Corruption is a crime.
Crime doesn't pay.
So quit studying or you'll go broke.

It always made me laugh and justified more than one study break.  Except now I'm thoroughly educated - and broke.  hmmmm somehow less amusing.

So that got me thinking about the other ones I had up in uni...  There was the "expect perfection, tolerate excellence" -- given that Jen got on me about that after my dressage test the other day "it wasn't *that* bad" while I'm saying the expectation is a lot higher.  *g*  Have to say that one's fairly ingrained by now.  For better or for worse :)

There was "what would the child you once were think of the adult you are now?"   Ummm let's see - plays with horses for a living and gets to bring her puppy dog to work.  Pretty much every horse-crazy girl's dream.  Check.

Then of course there's the one that passed university and went on to be stuck on my blog:  "Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.  You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps."  Story. of. my. life.

And the only other one I really remember was "if not now, when?" -- which I still ask myself any time I catch myself saying "well someday..."

Not sure there's really any point to this except that it sort of interested me.  Is it a case of what was drilled into my subconscious after years of reading the same thing day after day came to be part of my life?  (For better or for worse!  Maybe I need to stick "win the lottery" on a sticky next to the computer!).   Or, more likely, is it as simple as they meant something to me at a time when I was evolving as a person (theoretically! >;-P) and it makes sense that they still would?   The only one that makes me question that is the first.  That one's a little spooky.  Because it was about as far from inspirational as it gets and it still came true!  Sheesh.

Been lots of studies done on the first - right up there with training your thoughts and using visualization to improve.  And the second is just common sense.  But when it happens without any conscious thought...  A little creepy.  I guess that's how you end up with effective marketing!  hahaha oh dear.

You know that saying about when you come off the horse...?


Stolen from the GRS blog because it amused me...

So I was talking to a friend about how falling is a really big deal when you're a new rider.  How even the easiest fall is a dramatic event and the ones that hurt, possibly life changing.

When we have tween-age girls riding who seem really passionate, we lose them to one of three things:
- the first time they fall
- the first time they get hurt
- boys

So it stands to reason that the uni and adult riders have passed those phases and are therefore past the stage of OMG I FELL OFF!  Or variations thereof :)   So I never really think of it as a traumatic, life-changing experience.

Except...  What happens when the adult rider *started* as an adult.   Starting as an adult, riders are generally more cautious AND more coordinated.  As a result, they don't hit the ground as often.  Which means they can sometimes have ridden for *years* and still count on one hand the number of falls.   And of course when they do fall, they don't bounce as well as kids, making it all the more scarier.

There's a saying about you have to fall off 7 times to be considered a rider.  I remember arguing vehemently with my coach when I was still in or just past single digits (which, btw, is saying something since I was *terrified* of that coach and, believe it or not, a really wimpy kid!) because she said one of my falls didn't count *g*   I figured if I wasn't planning to get off, and I had to remount, it counted.   Since I left that barn at the w/t/c/x-rail level that argues for a pretty low definition of "rider".  hahaha many of my coaches count 100.  I figure if you're still keeping count then you need a new hobby!   I usually use 10 -- my thought is, if you can count on your fingers, you've got a few left to go :)

So then I started thinking about how long it'd take to rack up the ten.  Twice I've come off three separate horses in one day -- so that'd be six right there.  hahaha   A friend very politely referred to that as "determination" -- I suspect there are a few other equally, or more apt, words to use.  What can I say? :)   And then I was thinking through do I have ten *memorable* falls?   Cause let's be honest, the vast majority of falls are of the "stupid should hurt" variety that are forgotten seconds after they happen.

Memorable...

Well any time the horse falls, it's scary.  Part of our sport includes trust that the horse will keep his/her feet underneath us.  This has happened to me a number of times over the years (hey, we all trip and we only have two feet!), and there's always a little hesitation getting back on afterwards.  Si once left huge skid marks after loosing her footing on wet grass at a gallop (for the record - we were only supposed to be walking, but she was newly off the track, spooked at something and was gone...), and Zel ran back to the barn one day with grass stains on her saddle pad...  Most recently Athena fell a couple months ago when she was in her grab the bit and bolt phase and then couldn't make the turn.  Several other of that variety.  But in general, we'll clump all those together as one.

Another clump is the multiple falls in one day.  The 6 above qualify *g*  Only memorable because there comes a point when you wonder if maybe you should take up a safer sport.  Like rugby.

In a similar category is the multiple falls in one day off the *same* horse.  In some ways this is better than the one above because you can usually say "well I could do it on another horse".   But in some ways it's way worse because clearly something is going horribly wrong.

Then there are the firsts....   First dramatic fall -- barrel racing and falling into the barrel.  In the days when I still rode western and juniors didn't wear helmets.  I was out.  Remember the race.  Don't technically remember the fall.  Do remember the headache and throwing up afterwards.   Another first - the first really stupid fall -- saddle slipping sideways while cantering (*very* novice -- this was prob in the first 7 :) because the girth wasn't tight enough.   The first "laughing so hard I fell off" -- yup it happens.  Admittedly usually bareback and usually doing something that might be deemed.... ummmm well stupid pretty much sums it up.  But having fun in the process.  Etc etc etc

And along with the drama - the clump of "ow" falls.  The ones where you don't get up so quickly and/or land yourself in some random emerg room *sigh*   These are the ones we wish we could forget.

Most random thought -- so as some of you know, time stalls when you fall.  It sort of pauses and lets you contemplate life.  Usually my thoughts are of the four-letter variety.  Or the "this is going to hurt".  Or "just hang on till you're past the wall".  Or "well that was dumb".   But every once in a while you get a fun one -- my favourite was being bucked off a very big, 4yo horse with a *lot* of power.  I stuck the first four or five but he was having nothing to do with me and eventually I flew.   The thought?  "Well, if he threw me this far, he's probably not going to step on me."  hahaha oh dear.

Oh - another clump - the falls that look impressive enough that your coach/clinician/friend/whomever comes running to make sure you're still alive.   We'll group all those together as one.   And the similarly related "knocked the wind out of you" falls.  Those are scary but usually ok once you can breathe again.

There are the brilliant landing falls -- my favourite was off of Zel.  She quit at a nothing fence and I, in a stupid-should-hurt moment went over her head alone.  But I didn't quite register that I had come off.  You see, if a horse quits, they get a tap with the stick.   So she did.  She stopped, I came off, landed on my feet, holding the reins, and had smacked her with the crop -- still within the three second rule -- and then remounted.  All the while my friend was killing herself laughing.  And I didn't even clue into why until she pointed out that that's not exactly the usual order of operations :)   I've had a few students who consistently land on their feet -- sometimes with enough showmanship to bow or add some flare to it :)

There are the always fun unintentionally dismounting in public falls.   The warmup ring used to be a favourite place for me to do that.  Causes excessive amounts of chaos as your horse tears around riderless.  The show ring a few times.  Out on XC a few times.  Doing so in the water jump can earn it's own year-end reward now!  So those all become one group :)

Then there are the "broken tack" falls.  Two that I really remember -- one stirrup leather breaking on a drop into water.  I definitely got wet that day.   And I had a girth break as I was going over a fence.  Saddle and I landed apart from the horse.  Less graceful.  In a show.  A two-for-one that fall.  Sheesh.  I'm sure there've been others...  but those are the two I remember.

Am I at 10 yet?  Hey I am. I didn't actually think I was, but sobeit.  So...  When you can come up with not just 10 falls, but most of those contain *groups* of falls -- does that mean your a pro or definitely in need of psychiatric advice?   Also, what does it say about our sport that you can't be any good at it until you've proven yourself  to be really bad?   Oh dear...

To upgrade or not to upgrade?


Ummmm yeah, so my pony stepped it up this weekend.  Mostly.

First -- shall we review our last run at Grandview?  *shudder*  Right -- that was the one where we were tied for second after dressage and ended second last.  Yeah.  Stadium was the kind of round people watch with their eyes covered and XC was horrifically sticky and we entirely missed the B element of the AB combo when she grabbed the bit and charged over A.  It was *pouring* rain, she was sliding and losing her balance, and by the end she didn't even want to jump a tiny entry-type log.   It was exactly the type of run you never want a green horse to experience.

So.  We went home, did some homework, ran a couple other shows, qualified for champs.  Ok, better.  The goal for champs was decent dressage and to jump clear and *well*.  Her *best* dressage will put her middle of the pack if the top OPT horses are there -- her movement just isn't flashy enough to match some of them.  So first wasn't necessarily a reasonable goal, but I wanted decent dressage and good jumping; the idea being if she was confident and ridable over a champ level PT course, she's potentially ready to upgrade.

Alright - time to go back to Grandview.  I'd been horribly sick on Thurs and moderately sick on Fri *sigh*  Fortunately, thanks to Rebecca taking over chores and my awesome students switching lesson times, I both got to sleep in AND go home early.  Helped a lot.  So when the alarm went off at 3:30, I was actually ok to go.  Well - along w/ my Advil cold meds *g*   My awesome friend Jen came with me to groom for the whole weekend -- despite the combo threat of early morning and horrific weather.  And it was pretty horrific.  Ridiculous amounts of rain (no hyperbole here -- CP24 informed me it was a record amount of rain for that date.  Sheesh).  But it's Grandview -- it *always* rains at Grandview.  Well, except when it snows.  And it pretty much always rains when I compete (did you *see* Lane's End?  Perfectly sunny day, then when I tacked up to jump one cloud rolled in and rained exactly as long as I was jumping.  Classic.)  So the combination pretty much guaranteed I'd end up wet.

Anyways - got in and ready for dressage.  The warm-up ring was a swamp.  Thanks to their awesome sandy footing even in 3" of water it's not slippery, but it was deep and Athena was definitely *not* happy being bogged down.  She was also super-stiff and sticky.  I didn't know if that was due to cold and wet or just her being her...   So when she was as good as it was going to get, we went in the ring.  The footing there was excellent - not sloppy at all.  But she was still super sticky.  I had *no* forward :(  None.  Couldn't get or maintain a canter for anything.  It wasn't our *worst* test ever.  Thankfully.  It'd be hard to top that test at Will O Wind earlier this year *g*  And I'd rather not try!  BUT it was arguably a close second.  By about half way through the test I knew our weekend had been reduced to a schooling exercise *sigh*   And for a seriously competitive A-type personality that's a disappointing start.  Booo.

So given the weather, we located her stall (YEAH for having a stall!) which I was super-happy to discover was in the arena.  Sweet.  Took care of Athena and got her stall all set up and then left her in Jen's care (who gamely went and hauled her giant water buckets all the way from the trailer) while I went to walk XC.    Course looked good.  Not actually as big as I thought it might be (although my eye might be a little warped these days), but reasonably technical for the level.  The bending line that ate us was early in the course again.  The bank was an up-one stride-down which'd be fun.  There was both an open ditch and a trakhener.  And lots of up and down the hills and strategically located jumps.

Had lots of time to relax and chill before xc.  Moved some more stuff down to her stall.  Tacked her up early because I suspected we might need an extra warm-up to overcome the stickiness of dressage.  Turns out I was wrong.  She was sticky for about three strides till she realized her handy studs would stop her from sliding on the grass and then she switched gears.  Forward and energized and yet ridable.  Jumped a few fences like a pro and then just stopped and hung out.  Watched a few other riders running their courses.  Chatted with some friends warming up.  All the usual things :)  One away we did a second mini-warmup and then we were good to go.

She had the game down.  Went right from stride one, picked up the first fence and attacked it.  But not the grab the bit and bolt strategy that failed so horribly earlier this year.  This was balanced and ridable -- but forward and committed.  Pony's come a *long* way.  Woohoo!  Got through the first four like we'd discussed the course map ahead of time *g*  Beautiful rhythm and jumping everything on stride.  Lovely.  Then we had our oh-so-tricky bending line.  Which I could *not* handle screwing up again.  *sigh*  Fortunately I didn't have to -- she did it like a pro.  Kept her rhythm and balance and got the correct number of strides.   Was pretty excited about that -- suspect the "good pony!" could probably have been heard back at the start box *g*   The rest of the course continued pretty much the same.  I did ask her to trot on one curve where the footing is slick and you angle across it -- didn't want to risk her sliding.  Unfortunately that ended up costing us significant time faults and several place *sigh*   But I do think it was the right choice for her.  The only issue we had was at one very vertical box that she misjudged and actually hit -- was pretty scary.  I really don't know exactly what she did, but yikes!  Managed to land together though on the other side of the flags and she was still sound and eager so let it go and moved on.   She did the on-off bank and the open ditch like they weren't even there.  The only thing she looked at was actually the *smallest* jump on course -- a little roll-top.  She started telling me about ten strides out that she wasn't sure about it though and I was not about to get a stop at a tiny fence near the end of the course so we had a pretty serious discussion and she hopped over it.  Trakheners she's not sure about -- but she also doesn't usually notice till she takes off.  So we jumped it -- then magically rose higher and hovered in the air WAY above the gremlins before landing.  Not exactly text-book style, but we were over it.  The last few fences were maxed and she skipped over them easily.  At the end she was feeling muscle tired and sticky -- the last couple jumps were an effort for her -- but cardio was amazing.  Her pulse and respiration dropped pretty instantly and she wasn't overly hot (albeit the low temp and random showers might've had something to do with that).   So yeah - I was pretty thrilled with her.  What a difference from the last time we were here.  Wow.

And that was it for the day.  1:00 and we were done.  Now what?  hahaha well I groomed and wrapped my pony and meandered around organizing things a bit.  Then she was happy napping with her hay, water and new friends so Jen, Sasha and I headed over to the hotel and got ourselves settled.  Came back later that afternoon to feed (she actually ate!!!  Anybody who knows Athena will know why that warrants three exclamation marks.  Or even four! :) and rebraid and figure out what time I'd be riding on Sunday.  Noon.  Civilized.  Very civilized.  Hung out for a while, took Athena for a nice long walk so she could stretch (remember she's on 24/7 turnout at home -- being stuck in a stall isn't her favourite thing in life).  Debated for a while about a blanket for her (decided not -- right choice).  Visited the BBQ, but since it was crowded, I couldn't find any of my friends in the first few minutes, and I had Sasha with me -- we didn't stay.  Walked show-jumping by sunset and once Athena was settled in for the evening we went out for dinner and socializing :)  I tell you - def one of the most relaxed shows I've ever been to.  Lots of time between phases, only one horse, not coaching any students, and no need to get home to take care of the other horses made for a significantly easier day than I'm used to.

Sunday I wanted to be at the barn to feed around 9 - perfect as that's what Athena's used to and she'd have lots of time to digest before needing to ride; it'll also give me lots of time to chill and relax before riding.  I was contemplating taking her for a stretchy hack before jumping but that didn't actually happen.  When we got there (after a surprisingly good continental breakfast) I was greeted by an entirely new horse.  This one is alert and happy and likes people and attention.  She also very much wanted out of her stall.  Ummmm ok.   So she got breakfast (less interested in eating this time) and the braids bobbled and then got to go for a long walk thanks to her new friend Jen.   I went up to check out stadium -- course was riding well and looked good.  Soon enough it was time to ride.

Once again I gave myself a fairly long warm-up time and didn't need it.  I trotted for a while to allow her to stretch and physically warm-up but the actual jumping she nailed on the first try.  She was also a little tired after yesterday (not really lagging just not super-fresh either) so I didn't want to spend her strength in warm-up.   And then our nice sunny day turned dark.  And we got soaked.  Really soaked.  And *cold*. Brrrrrr.  Both of us were shaking and she was pretty bitter about being out in it, so I stuck her under a tree so we could shelter from the worst of it -- at least until we actually *had* to get going again.   Fortunately the unpleasantness ended before we actually had to go in the show ring.

The course was maxed -- as one would expect at champs :)   But all the related distances were on text-book strides -- and while she doesn't *have* a text-book stride, at least I know how that's supposed to feel *g*.   Trotted into the ring and Athena came to life.  She. Was. Amazing.  Wow.  Forward but balanced and not running.  Scanning and picking up the next fence on her own (hahaha only once where she snagged the wrong one -- but she was willing to be redirected :)   Ridable.  I could bend on the corners and rate her pace.  I got the same number of strides I walked in every line.  And if all this sounds like a "yeah, so what?" you need to re-read the summer's adventures with this horse...  hahaha Princess Zel - for that pony it was a yeah, so what.  But for *this* horse, that's a serious accomplishment.  And she was clear.

Double clear.  On a championship level course.  Sweet.  Soooo.... time to upgrade?  :)   hahaha we shall see...   But regardless, I'm pretty happy with her :)

You know what's fun? Winning.

Ok so I have to admit it made me laugh to use the same subject line two weeks in a row.   Small things amuse small minds n all that.

So I was supposed to show Athena this weekend at Cedar Run, but then I decided we'd try champs (not because I actually believe she has any hope of being competitive in that crowd *sigh* but because I'd like to see if she'll jump confidently around a maxed-out course before deciding whether to upgrade or not).  Couldn't do both -- that'd put her out four weeks in a row, with the hardest being last.  Definitely not an appropriate plan.  Even two was pushing it.  Well, evidently not too much given her results *g*  Something to be said for consistency.  But still.  She earned a weekend off.

However, by the time I decided this I'd long since sent in my entries (remember Woodwinds was never on the original plan...)   And it was past the cancellation date.  And I *really* didn't want to lose my entry fees.  And neither of the girls wanted to go (well that's not entirely accurate -- they both had other commitments).  So...  Now what?   Well it turns out I have eight *other* horses to pick from.  hahaha handy.

Which leads to the "which horse" decision.   Some get kicked out of the pool right away:   Apollo - not fit or appropriately trained.  Louis - not mentally ready.   Nick - fit and trained but he doesn't fit very well in my trailer and I *really* can't risk anything happening to him.  That and, tbh, he's not exactly my *favourite* ride of the group.  And there's no benefit -- he's been-there-done-that so no real point to taking him.

Then we get to the maybes.  Dixie and Charlie are both totally valid options and I seriously contemplated both.  They could easily do the same level Athena was supposed to, so would've been a non-issue to trade.  Was esp considering Charlie since his pbr was coming to groom for me and I think she would've been entertained by that.  But the simple reality is that neither one of them is fit enough for a HT -- both being TBs they'd run it and have a blast...  And then be sore the whole next week.  So no-go on those two.

Then there's Bella.  She could do it.  She'd have a blast.  And is totally fit enough that she wouldn't even blink.  And she is also ready for PT now.  But she's less than 14hh.  And while I have ridden her and I know logically she can carry me, I really don't feel it's appropriate for me to be jumping her.  And, as with Nick and the above two, she doesn't need any schooling.  The only reason for me to take her would be so as not to have to switch levels for the horse.  And that seemed fairly unreasonable.

So then we're down to Jack and Lissy.  I like both horses.  They're both fit.  They both need more training.  Of the two though, Lissy has the most to work on.  She's also my favourite.  Handy combination that :)  So she got voted onto the island.  Or into the trailer as the case may be.  Minor flurry of emails with the ever-amazing secretary and my times were switched as Lis isn't ready for PT yet.

This was Wednesday night.  The last time I rode Lissy (as in *rode* her, as opposed to hopped on for 10 mins to show somebody something or do a really minor tuneup) was before I got Athena last year.  hmmmm so Thursday I figured I should probably school her a bit.  I did flat her for a few mins (literally) on Tues eve as a tune-up after a lesson so at least I knew what we were starting with.  Which wasn't all that much.  So Thurs comes.  Start w/ a warm-up hack.  And on said hack we negotiated the fact that she could indeed be on the bit and keep her back up outside of the dressage ring.  Sweet.

Then we head to the stadium field.  Have a bit of a discussion about how the canter is supposed to work.  Her feeling was head up, back hollow, legs moving asfastasphysicallypossible.   My suggestion was head down, back up, legs moving in a quiet 3-beat rhythm.  It didn't take very long at all before she agreed to try it my way.  This is one smart, hard-working mare.  It took *months* to make that change in Athena *sigh*.  Took about one lap of the field with Lissy.  Only down side is, since she's never done it, she really doesn't have the muscle to maintain it very long.  Fair.

So having jumped the horse exactly once in the last year -- and that being gymnastics to reschool a specific issue -- I felt a little bit of work over fences would be a wise plan.  And we pretty much repeated the last paragraph but over jumps.  I let her know that running as fast as possible and throwing yourself over things giraffe style wasn't really the preferred methodology, and she gamely gave my way a try.  We also did a couple "scary" fences to make it clear that over is the only appropriate option.  While we didn't *quite* get an award-winning hunter round in, she did improve significantly quickly.  So we left it on that -- why drill endlessly?

Well Friday I went to ride her and realized very quickly that she was *tired*  hmmmmm apparently doing 6 months of training in 45 minutes is somewhat tiring for new muscles.  So we just did a very short (20 min?  If that?) stretchy walk/trot so that all muscles were good and nothing was stiffening up.  And then she got to go back to her field :)

Which means on show day I had a still somewhat tired pony (day after the day after) with exactly one day of training on her (in the way that *I* want her to go -- she's solidly kid-broke in the walk-trot-run-around style).  Ok why not :)  So the first amusement of the day was when we took her off the trailer.  To appreciate this, you have to remember the kinds of horses I usually ride...  The ones who come off the trailer bouncing and feel the need to investigate the entire property at a power walk, or run laps around the trailer.  Lissy didn't even have all four feet off the ramp when she started grazing.   Kirby and I were a little bemused at this, but ok sobeit.

I left Lis with Kirby and went to walk cross, which was ridiculously easy.  I also watched stadium for a couple rounds -- this was training level so it was big and lots of filler, but I figured that'd go away and the course itself seemed ok.  The first two fences were a related distance, which isn't entirely easy as it doesn't give you any chance to get a rhythm going, and the turn to fence three was a little tricky, but everything else seemed good.

Went and tacked up for dressage and realized I hadn't read my dressage test yet.  Oops.  Gave it a quick read-over and decided I'd watch a couple later (I knew I was last in dressage -- with my switched times I was in some strange positions).  Got tack check and started to warm-up.  She was quite sticky off the leg, but once she started going was moving nicely.  Still felt a little tired though, so I didn't push too hard in the warmup.  I also neglected to watch any tests.  Oops.  Not sure why -- definitely had time.  Ah well.  I did glance over once in a while and felt like I knew it :)   Does that count?   Anyways -- after our break when I picked her back up again to do a last few min w/u before the actual ride she was not happy about it.  Had a few catty moments and then she agreed to go along with the game.  Test was...  Well let's just say a long way from brilliant.  BUT, for one day of training, it actually wasn't too bad.  She was accurate (but that I'd expect as her normal rider is quite good about that).  Inconsistently through, but no different from how she warmed up, so can't ask more than that.  And her pilot who didn't bother to memorize the course made up a random test movement that wasn't technically called for *sigh*.  Classic.

We had less than an hour before we'd be first in show jumping so lead her back to the trailer (about a 15 min walk from dressage -- 20 to show jumping and 25 to xc!).  Swapped tack, gave pony a drink, and headed out to stadium.   Trotted part way there -- both to keep her muscles loose and to save some time.   Warm-up was pretty sticky.  While this mare is awesome for xc logs, she has very little show-jumping experience and seems to feel she should get to inspect all the fences before she jumps them.  So when she approached and hesitated and I told her to jump anyways -- she did it, but wasn't terribly convinced it was a good idea.  Our warmup was, well pretty horribly sticky.  I mostly worked on getting her to land and gallop away and then balance for a turn.  I definitely wanted forward installed as I was keeping an eye on the course changes going on in the ring next to us...

That maxed out training course with all the insane filler?  Yup, all they'd done was lower it.  The *one* piece of filler that was too big for max dimensions removed and replaced with a scary gate, and the first part of the triple came out.  Everything else was still in play.  Aqueduct, scary purple planks, giant green fuzzy box, 2-stride combination, a couple scary latices of different colours.  All sorts of fun stuff!  There was one fence I couldn't see (remember I didn't actually walk this course - no time) but it had ridden easily in the higher levels so I figured it was probably not-too-scary.  The rest of them though...  oh dear.  Particularly fun since most of it she's never seen before.  I can't wait till I have scary jumps at home to school!  hmmm ok.  So seeing this, forward and first try became important items to install in the warm-up.  Got tack check done and jumped a couple more -- *finally* getting rhythm, balance and forward together.  But of course by now they're not scary new jumps anymore either.

And then we were in!  But...  Not everybody else was out yet.  hahaha so on the way to salute the judge I detoured slightly so she could at least *see* a couple scary things -- I think we got one box, one aqueduct (I *so* can't spell that word w/o spell check!), and one lattice in *g*   Conveniently for me the scribe wasn't there yet either.  Judged looked at me, I saluted, then he realized he was missing a scribe.  hahaha no whistle yet while he found them (slightly behind him) and asked if they were ready.  Handy for me though -- more time in the ring is great for a greenie!   By the time the whistle actually blew she'd gotten a chance to see the second portion of the in-and-out as well.  Sweet.

And then we were off.  I really wish I had this one on video because I'd like to see how it looked.  To me it felt like a really solid green-bean ride.  Not a prefect balance stadium round, but a looky-baby getting over stuff.  We had moments of brilliance and moments of ugly.  But she made it.  And she made most of it in a balanced, rhythmical canter.  I was definitely riding defensively -- she questioned a good 3/4 of the fences.   And was particularly concerned about the aqueduct (hey - spelled it right that time!) and the in-and-out.  But did both on the first try.  And then I could just feel her confidence growing, so by the end she wasn't questioning it as much, was more willing to relax and bend and rate her rhythm on the turns, and jumping beautifully.   Even the scary boxes of varying colours and shapes that appeared in the 2nd half of the course didn't require *as* strong a ride as I had anticipated.  And the last two fences were totally lovely. Now to be fair -- the last two fences were also the easiest *sigh*  - but they were at least as nice as our attempted-hunter-school round on Thurs.  So yeah, I was pretty thrilled with her for that.

No time to stay and watch anybody else though -- less than an hour till xc and remember the distances?  Yikes!   Hopped off and walked her back.  She had time for a quick drink while I changed my gear and then it was back to xc.  Again with the trot across the long field, down the hill, up the hill...  Starting to feel like old-school eventing with the roads-and-tracks phases:  baby-style!  hahaha too fun.  Got there, got tack check, did a minor gallop around the field and over one fence (pro!) and good to go.  Except....   Change of plans -- apparently my change of order hadn't made it to xc, so after a quick consultation I was put at the *end* of my division instead of the start and suddenly found myself with time to kill.  Ah well, no biggie.  Gave pony a long well-deserved break and hung out chatting with people.  Always fun.  Not like this was a high-stress course I had to psyc up for :)

So it was eventually our turn and off we went.  Had a *serious* negotiation about the first fence.  Totally tiny and inviting so I'm not sure what she was concerned about, but we did maintain forward movement the whole time and she got over it.  Rode *really* forward away to make a bit of a point (which she was all too happy with) before balancing for fence two.  And then we settled into a lovely rhythm.  Too fast of course (you're not new here :).  And I was a little dismayed at how unrateable she was -- I'll have to install that feature sooner rather than later.  Definitely only had one speed she was comfortable with.

Now about 3/4 of the way around the course, the track went directly beside the water jump.  Neither the track nor the water were flagged.  So I decided that if she was too fast AND jumping confidently when we got there, I'd take the opportunity to school the water.  Pony's got the talent to go reasonably through the levels so she's going to need to learn it sooner or later :)  Since we were definitely too fast and she was jumping like an old pro, I brought her back to a trot and we tried the water.  She wanted to walk in and sniffed it a little, but she didn't even try to actually stop.  Woohoo!  Previous "no option" discussions having an effect!  Sweet.  And I even got a little baby trot out.  I was pretty happy with her :)   And then we settled into a slower rhythm (yeah combination of going away from home and tired pony) that ended us through the flags just past the minimum time :)   Sweet!

When I was giving Lis a bath, Kirby filled me in that we were in 3rd after stadium.  Sweet!   Worth sticking around then :)  By the time I got there, final scores were posted...   With us in first :)   Woohoo!  I saw the one who was first after dressage (lovely horse!) stop at the first fence, so that clearly made a difference.  No idea who was in second or where they ended up.  But no worries.   Socialized for a bit till ribbons were announced then time to wrap up pony and head home.  HUGE thanks to Kirby for tons of help on a very long day.

So yeah - two weeks, two horses, two firsts.  Not half bad :)